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January 16, 2015

Comments

Why do people *do* that?

The one I know best strongly values empty counter space, hates all counter-top appliances, and seldom has anything on the stove or in the oven. She regards cooking as a chore -- and when she must cook, she works quickly, and works alone.

On the other end of the scale, I like a kitchen in which the persons standing in front of the range, the oven, the microwave, the toaster oven, the sink and dishwasher, and the refrigerator can all exist simultaneously without quantum interference.

My sister remodeled her kitchen a couple of years ago, and I find it really annoying to work in. It is much bigger, with great storage but nothing in it is placed correctly, IMO. The lovely big (extra-deep, extra long) counter is on the opposite side of the kitchen from the built in garbage and recycling bins, plus the oven and range are also on the other side of the kitchen. The main cabinets aren't over/near the main counter either, so you can't just reach for something you need while you're in the middle of prep. All this means carrying things back and forth all the time. Her kitchen doesn't "flow" the way I cook at all.

So that's my big recommendation: think about how you cook, and about placement of the appliances and major work areas. Also, dual sinks are the bomb if you have the space. If you cook for a lot of people, having a sufficiently deep sink is also key.

That whole microwave-over-the-stove thing sucks. My last place had that. And not only was I in constant danger of burns, the heat from the stove starting degrading the plastic fittings on the microwave and which started to crack and break. Fun times.

A friend put in bamboo flooring in his kitchen a few years ago, and it has been great. It has stood up to wear and tear well, even with the kids, he says it's comfortable to stand on if you're cooking all day, affordable, and it looks great.

Good luck with the house and remodel planning.

What bluefoot said, squared. Pay close attention to where your appliances are relative to doors, each other, and cabinets you use frequently. Also pay close attention to where your sink will be relative to e.g. the dishwasher. Can you easily get in the fridge when the dishwasher is open? What are your refrigerator doors blocking? Etc. I cannot stress this enough. We will, at some near opportunity (in the spring or summer) be re-hanging our door to the outside because it smacks into the dishwasher door when it's open.

I personally have never, ever had an issue with the microwave over the stovetop, so I think that is a matter of preference and/or height. Our microwave is over our stovetop now.

Suggestions: you can save money on everything if you are patient, so I would advise being patient and buying quality items when they are discounted. Here are my preferences:

1) Lots of companies make a decent refrigerator. Decide what TYPE (as in layout) of fridge you want first, then pick a manufacturer that's reliable. Do you want a fridge that has the freezer on top, on the bottom, or to one side? Do you want French doors? What finish do you want?

2) Sink. Don't skimp there. If you cook a lot, and garden a lot, I recommend a large heavy-gauge stainless sink. We bought a heavy-gauge apron sink from Kraus and haven't regretted it, even though it cost more than a decent dishwasher.

3) Dishwasher. If you're going to use it a lot, I can't overstate how good a machine Bosch makes. They are quiet and they clean your dishes with minimal pre-cleaning. Just scrape off the excess food if any and let 'er rip. They're expensive, but this is a kitchen you will be spending a lot of time in.

4) Cooktop or stove? Gas or induction? We have a gas range now, and previously had an induction cooktop, and I can say that hands-down, induction beats absolutely everything else. But we have gas now because it still works when the power goes out. For the oven or oven part of your range, you are just going to have to decide what features you will want there. I personally don't bake.

5) Countertop material. We had granite; we now have Corian. Both have their drawbacks and advantages. Granite chips; Corian scratches. There are other options as well, but I tend to want to avoid laminate because the backsplash behind the sink almost invariably lets splashed water from the sink in, and the particle-board understructure swells. That steered us away from laminate. If you have a flat island sink, that objection goes away.

The rest is a matter of taste. We have hickory cabinets handmade by an Amish guy and his kids, and they have the best hinges and other hardware I have ever experienced. What you prioritize there (materials vs hardware) is a matter of taste. With the cabinets, we went all the way to the ceiling because nothing else made sense in an 8' kitchen. If you leave a shelf at the top for storing and/or displaying things, just realize that's another surface to dust.

Flooring is also a matter of preference. I think bamboo, provided it's the very hard kind (usually the kilned lighter-color "wood" is the hardest, whereas the more caramel-colored bamboos tend to be softer) is a wonderful choice. Tile, on the other hand, will chip if you drop a pot or anything at all heavy on it.

I say all of these things out of having redone two kitchens in a span of perhaps 4 years.

Also, consider carefully whether you want to take any walls out before you design your kitchen. You don't want to be doing that AFTER you've shelled out money for everything. Taking out a wall was practically the whole point of our last re-kitchen; the house had a galley kitchen that had very little external lighting and wholly inadequate internal lighting.

Which brings us to lighting. If it's an old kitchen, chances are the lighting is not good. We just took out the couple of sadly sub-par fixtures and put about a dozen cans in the ceiling, spaced more or less evenly. It looks great and the lighting couldn't be much better. We used CFL spots in the cans but may switch to LEDs later. Under-counter light is also something you might want to consider. We bought a kit that had LED strips that you can daisy-chain. Because the underside of counters is normally recessed about an inch, you can just use double-stick foam tape and attach them directly without any sort of shroud or lens. They're fairly bright. Our plan was to (in our previous home) also put strips of them on top of the cabinets, but we never did that.

Also helps to, before choosing cabinets, decide what's going to go where in the kitchen, and select cabinet sizes to accommodate. So: if you're going to redo lighting at all, or even if you're just going to e.g. add a disposal where there wasn't one before, have an electrician over and talk it over with them.

And: plumbing. Allow for the fact that your old plumbing might need some work. Ours did. Even if you're just putting in a different sink than the usual (which you're going to have to discuss with your cabinet guy, because a sink as large and underhung as ours needs to also be supported from underneath), you might want a plumber to hook everything together. If you guys are really handy and don't mind doing some of that kind of thing yourself, fine.

Last thing: if it's an older home, check out every single one of your plumbing shutoffs. Those valves degrade over time and if you can't shut them all the way off, it's going to be a really messy job putting in e.g. new kitchen faucet, or even replacing the cabinets and reusing the old faucet.

This is all borne of recent & occasionally painful experience.

Which reminds me: you will need a backup plan for meals during a remodel. Ours took about six weeks. I think the one before that also took about six weeks (they were doing other things as well, but still). You will either have to have a backup stove that's useful (plus a hookup to make it work) or you'll be eating out a lot. As in: pretty much all of the time.

One alternative to the over-stove microwave that we employed in our last house was microwave mounted over an in-cabinet oven. Because we had the induction cooktop, we needed an oven, and our contractor just stacked the microwave over the oven and added a bezel to bring it out to the width of the oven. It looked really nice. You may even be able to buy pieces made by the same manufacturer, targeted to that kind of installation.

If you do that, odds are you're going to have to be doing some more electrical work.

It's probably time to start making lists. If you have specific questions, you have my email address. Good luck!

I think the microwave over the stove thing depends on both your style of cooking and your equipment. It would probably work OK for me because I rarely need the high setting on my hood, and my range is an induction model that doesn't put out much waste heat. It helps, too, that I'm tall, so it would be at a more convenient height for me.

Also, FWIW, smoke detectors should be kept as far from the kitchen as possible so that they don't generate false alarms. You don't really need one in the kitchen because the danger there is when you're actively using it and won't need to be notified. The place you really need smoke detectors- and where they're actually required by code- is in bedrooms, since smoke could kill you while you sleep. What you really need in your kitchen (assuming you use a gas range) is a carbon monoxide detector.

As far as design goes, I think storage is really important. You need appropriate storage for things closest to where you're likely to use them. So you should have a cabinet appropriate for pots and pans close to the stove, and storage for food, knives, bowls, and similar preparation ware near your main working counter.

Also think about your own special storage needs. Not everyone cooks the same, so now is your chance to make sure you have an appropriate place for your own items that have always been hard to fit. My mother used to bake bread several times a week, so she had a flour drawer. It was lined with steel to keep out vermin and big enough to hold a 50 pound bag, which would have been hard to manage without specialized storage. I've seen a replica 19th Century kitchen that had something similar but in a cabinet above the counter; it even had a sifter built into the bottom so you could sift directly into your container.

The short sale takes so long in part because the accounting is different; even if they're paying the property taxes that expense is treated differently from recognizing the loss of the full value of the mortgage that's on the books. So it looks worse when they accept a short sale than when they let the house sit on the market forever.

My dad has a Hoosier for his bread-making. Whether you have one of those (his is quite old, and not nearly as dearly priced as the one I linked to) is also one of those decisions you should make before diving into a remodeling project.

lots and lots of recent experience; I'm still trying to forget...

First recommendation, a book "Kitchen Design with Cooking in Mind", small press, author Don Silvers.
It's not just the usual, traditional 'kitchen triangle' layout, but a more useful and rational approach.

Second: Fine Homebuilding, annual Kitchens & Baths issues, but just for good general info, guides, etc.

In spite of people trying to push in that direction, decided against microwave/vent combo. Because the previous couple of microwaves died from steam rising from the stove. It's also an issue of collecting grease in the vent, how you deal with replacing them (when the microwave inevitably dies) etc.

Second the recco for Bosch dishwasher. And Kraus sinks; also went for Kraus faucet, since it seemed to be the only one that is actual solid stainless, rather than "stainless finish (over metal that WILL corrode)" from the usual suspects. I don't see how "Kraus sinks are more expensive than a dishwasher", when you're looking at a Bosch dishwasher.

Also second the recco for getting the plumbing shutoffs right: adding more is always good, and use ball-valve shutoffs.

LED overhead lights (fixtures & cans) LED under-cabinet lights..you can get a LOT of light without heating up a room that can get entirely too hot just from cooking.

And to echo a previous comment: if you can find an Amish guy to do your cabinets, you'll probably like the quality for the cost.

Not sure this is helpful, but this blog post has two embedded videos about one Japanese housewife's kitchen set up. If you click on the cc button, you'll get subtitles.

First, figure out how many people you need to have access at the same time. That includes when you are going to have one group clearing dinner and the other getting desert out. (Joel seems to be describing what would locally be described as a "six butt kitchen.")

Second, figure how much counter space you need to function comfortably. Now increase that by at least 25% (maybe more). If you don't actually need it, you can always pile the incoming mail or something on it. ;-)

Only now do you get into details of how your work flows, and what stuff you need to get to and when.

You might also want to give serious consideration, if you have room, to a walk-in pantry. Not only more space for stuff, but a lot less contortions getting to it.

OK, Snarki, Slarti and wj are right on the money.

Some more thoughts:
Over the cabinet lights are great, but check the color temp of the tubes, you don't need bright whites (we went with day-lights) and make sure there is enough soft lighting for middle-of-the-night forays or your eyes will never forgive you. We went with a double triangle set up (two sinks, one gas range with oven, one under-counter electric oven, one fridge) to make sure there were enough prep spaces for the sort of cooking we love to do. My wife is barely 5', so everything important is within reach and we have a major fan over the range. You don't put a smoke detector in the kitchen you put a heat detector, sometimes called a "rate of rise" detector, for kitchen fires, and make sure you have a place for an extinguisher.
Extra trash space so you can sort as you clean is very nice, filtered water is good, extra plugs are wonderful, Bosch DW is fabulous once you get over the cost. We spent almost twice as long designing the kitchen as it took to build, using a professional designer, about 13 weeks of design for just under 8 weeks of work (but we replaced 3 windows at the same time).
You might regret spending time now, but you will seriously regret NOT getting the details right. If you spend as much time in the kitchen as you say, doing a design and letting it set while you mull it over is time very well spent. We are now 7 years post-remodel and it's still great. Yes, there are a couple of things we'd change (we'd lose the two-height counter, it's too high to sit at comfortably for anyone under 5'8" and also causes a traffic jam) but overall we're very satisfied and that is due to really sweating the details.

RT:

it looks worse when they accept a short sale than when they let the house sit on the market forever

Which is exactly how it looks from our end.

This is SO stupid -- it keeps houses empty, which is *horrible* for the community, and dumps endless frustration on people who just want a place to live.

Is this the result of custom (in the banking or accounting industry), or is it due to regulation? And what might the purpose of the regulation be? Just from what I'm seeing here, it keeps housing prices up, less responsive to market forces pushing downward.

John raises a great point (and one that I all too often lose track of): if you're short, or if anyone else working in your kitchen is short, get a rolling library stool. My (short) wife is still thanking me for giving her one decades ago.

On the microwave business I have experience.

I had one over the stove - it came with the place. I hated it. The fan was pathetic and the smoke alarm went off constantly. Being a procrastinator, I lived with it, until the microwave died.

I got a real hood - a Zephyr something or other. It goes up to almost 700 cfm (a microwave fan claims 300, delivers less). It cost me a fortune, not for the hood but to get the ductwork arranged. I had a 4" diameter (illegal) vent. You need at least 6". Make sure you have it and get as much as you can. (I also had, unbeknownst to me, ducts that were made out of that pleated stuff. This is a bad idea, not to mention against codes, because grease gets trapped in the folds, fires can start, and so on. Can you say "builders are crooks?")

Anyway, the hood is worth every nickel. The thing sucks up smoke like crazy, even on low settings. Like to cook a steak in a cast iron pan on the stove? Go right ahead. No smoke alarm will disturb you.

That's the limit of the advice I can offer. Get the most potent hood you can. (I have a small countertop microwave for defrosting, reheating, and so on. It's perfectly adequate.)

One bonus point:
if you're doing any of the work yourself, this is the perfect opportunity to buy all the tools (aka "toys") that you've been wanting but put off getting.

Definitely under-cabinet LEDs.

Back splash against any exposed wall above the stove.

A shelf for cookbooks, though I decided to put them in an enclosed cabinet to cut down on dust.

We had a large, kind of ugly microwave which wasn't used often, so we enclosed that out of sight in a cabinet as well with an outlet installed at the back of the cabinet.

As much as possible use slide out shelving in the cabinets, especially for cookware and plates down low (saves on the back and knees) and we also put in a narrow vertical full height pull-out for spices, cooking oils, vinegars, etc.

Hire a marriage counselor and have divorce attorneys on retainer. They can be stored standing up in a kind of mobile temporary closet for when you need them.

"What kind of forces are acting to make banks or mortgage companies so reluctant to pick up money that's lying on the table?"

Echoing what others have said: Until they accept an offer, they can keep the house on the books for what it was originally valued, regardless of whether that value is realistic or not. They can do that even as it rots into a worthless heap that will just have to be torn down if somebody wants to use the lot. But the moment they accept an offer, they have to revalue it on their books, and actually record the loss on their ledgers.

They're in a bind: They have enough cash flow to keep operating, but if they revalued all their vacant properties to what they're worth today, they'd be underwater. Their debt/asset ratio would mandate that they liquidate and go out of business!

So they have to carefully sell only a fraction of these houses every year in order to remain in business, even if it means the housing stock they own is rotting. The alternative is legally mandated corporate suicide.

I found this very frustrating myself, during my house hunting a few years ago. I lost count of how many houses I found that looked good in the listings, but were rotting hulks when you visited them in person. Most aggravating were the "fixer-upper opportunities", because having had a short sale of my own a few years earlier, I was barred from getting a mortgage on any house that actually needed repairs. Even repairs I could have done myself for a couple hundred dollars. Lost at least a half dozen houses that would have been fantastic buys that way.

It's a great market for anybody who can buy a house cash, though, because you can buy it, fix some minor issues, and suddenly the market of people who could get a mortgage for the house expands dramatically. You can flip a house successfully doing the most trivial things, like patching a hole in the drywall. If you've got the cash. Which I don't.

Depending on your space options two stove tops is a great use of space, but, two dishwashers turns out to be the best thing ever. AND, depending on your cabinets it can really be cost neutral.

Marty seems to have found the "bachelor dishwasher" option: take dishes out of the "clean" dishwasher, use, put in the "dirty" dishwasher. When the dirty dishwasher is full, run it and swap the two functions.

I suggested it. It got STRONGLY vetoed. Grumble grumble. The remote-control opener for appliance 'garage'? Ditto. Some people are just mired in the past, I say.

Oh, here's another suggestion: if you're getting a cooktop/range and a hood, get a hood that is one size up from the cooktop: 30" cooktop (pretty standard) -> 36" hood. Then you don't have to worry about heat/splatter on the side cabinets, which makes the cooktop/hood spacing easier to fit to what you prefer. Easy to do, if you plan it in advance. I think I saw this one in Fine Homebuilding.

we just closed on a construction load this past Thursday. all of the above is sending chills down my back. or maybe that's the flu that i'm still powering through. either way... kitchen design is both fun and terrifying for me.

our current has a flat electric stove top. i like it well enough, though the model we chose has some quirks. downdraft vent isn't as awesome as i'd hoped - there just isn't enough power in the fan to affect more than two of the burners at all, and if it's a very smoky situation, it only gets about half of the smoke. and the heat settings are just shy of perfect - there's no real simmer setting, - there's a notch that keeps a low boil and the notch below just keeps things warm. so we're thinking about gas, but reading Consumer Reports has pretty much convinced me that all brands and all models of gas, electric and induction are terrible and we should probably just eat out every night.

Those of you who have experience with bamboo floors, what about cleaning them?

One reality of life in my kitchen is that not all spills or dropped food-things are going to be completely cleaned up at the time they occur, because I'm probably in the middle of doing something else. I look at wooden kitchen floors and think, water is going to spatter on that, drops of hot oil, milk and crumbs and carrot tops and just plain dirt -- and it's not going to be cleaned up immediately, and then what? Permanent stains, if it's anything like my dining room floor.

I guess what I'm saying is that my experience with wooden floors is that they're not as impermeable as I'd need for a kitchen floor. Is bamboo different?

Perhaps one of the most overlooked factors in kitchen design is where to store your spectators. How many do you expect to have in your new kitchen? Their circulation also needs to be planned for.

The microwave/convection oven is a very handy device IMHO.

The kitchen was probably the best feature of my old house, as I love to cook, and built it myself. A large corner of the first floor, surrounded by six foot deep oak edged tile counter tops on the two sides facing the rest of the room. The overhang on the other side provided enough seating for dinner, and you could freely hold conversations with guests *outside* the kitchen. And there was enough counter space to butcher a deer on the counter.

Can't say I was fond of the tile floor, though. I'd picked an anti-slip tile, and it was as advertised, but impossible to keep clean, as it snagged fibers off of the mop. As well, any dish you dropped was doomed. Much as I dislike linoleum, it's a very practical choice for a kitchen floor.

I remodelled our kitchen last summer. We've lived in the house since '89 and it was built in '65. It still had the original kitchen, sans wallpaper and plus repainting. (The original Amana radar-range died a few years ago and was replaced, as was the electric stove-top by a gas one.) When the oven died with a dishwasher fading fast I decided the time was finally right to remodel rather than spend more money patching leaks in the dyke.

I had remodelled the kitchen in our previous house and was so sad to leave it, but our second daughter surprised us and the house wasn't large enough for two kids, so we moved to this house. Consequently I had been thinking about things I liked and hated in kitchens for about 30 years.

Floors: we chose hardwood in my previous kitchen remodel and it was soon a mess when our nanny walked in it in high heels. But like you I didn't want tile or stone because I go barefoot most of the time and don't like standing on a cold hard surface. Here is the high end linoleum floor I finally chose this time: http://www.armstrong.com/flooring/luxury-vinyl/classico-travertine-blue-mist-beige-resilient-vinyl-tile-D4310/floor-125502.asp. So far, I am extremely happy with the look and feel.

I had chosen Corian counter-tops in my first remodel, and was moderately happy with them, but you can't put a hot pot directly on corian without scorching it, and though I am pretty careful, I don't really trust all the potential other cooks to be mindful. I chose granite this time, and am happy with it. No breakage so far, and cleaning is not difficult. My color is verde karzai (here is a picture not of my kitchen but it looks like this -- http://www.houzz.com/photos/8518241/Verde-Karzai-Granite-transitional-kitchen-portland). Have to go -- will post about my appliances later.

Brett:

aha, that explanation makes perfect sense, thank you. It's not as much of a problem in this part of NJ, because we never really had a housing bust compared to most of the country.

Alas (as far as you're concerned), my proposed solution is "more banking regulation jfc" also "capitalism means sometimes a business *deserves* to die". Because basically, those mortgage/banking companies are destroying whole communities (*nothing* is worse for a community than unoccupied, decaying housing) because they refuse to be held accountable for their mistakes.

The local Cook's Station has a display of different counter tops, and of the ones there, the one I like the best is the cement counter top, with fiber optic lighting. It's fairly subtle, you just catch a bit of sparkle out of the corner of your eye, but that sort of thing is just spectacular at night. Best of all, it's a feasible DIY project, so when we remodel the kitchen in a few years, we might go with that.

And remodel it we will. The previous owner perpetrated this hideous epoxy over old Formica job, that looks like somebody barfed all over after eating too much pea soup. Really, I have no idea what they were thinking, perhaps they were color blind.

You're right, Doc: Practically every mortgage company and bank in the country should have committed simultaneous suicide by revaluing their holdings back in 2008, so that they would be legally required to shut down because of illegally bad debt to asset ratios.

I agree that businesses should be allowed to die, but you've got a systematic problem when EVERY business in a particular sector would be legally required to die at the same time, if they didn't fudge their books.

But once having find yourself in that kind of problem, you really do have an obligation to make some new regulations to keep you out of that mess in the future. There has to be some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Without destroying the entire community.

There has to be some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Without destroying the entire community.

Yes. One problem - the big one here - is that the regulations in effect say, "So long as you cook your books you can stay in business. If you change them to reflect reality then you are finished."

Now, before we jump in and call the regulators idiots let's remember that banks generally fiercely oppose "marking to market," - that is, adjusting the value of assets to reflect their true value rather than some historic number. It makes the earnings look bad and so on, so the rules are theirs as much as anyone's. Left alone they would certainly continue to do things this way.

A more sensible scheme would be to require marking to market, along with appropriate adjustments to other requirements. Never happen.

Part 2 -- Kitchen design: I didn't use a kitchen designer, but I found that when you go to a good cabinet sales company, they have persons that work with you using their design software to produce kitchen plans. The plans are good enough to pull building permits from our town's permit center, which I had to do myself because the builder I worked with wasn't a licensed contractor. (Though I knew him, his work and his family very well ... I wouldn't suggest doing this if you don't have reason to be confident in the person you work with.)

Cabinets: I got Diamond cabinets, which are the cheap alternative. I would probably go up a grade if I did the project again, although my vendor made right all the issues that I had with the cabinets as delivered. I especially love the heavy duty lazy susans in the lower corner cabinets and the after market slide outs in the other lower cabinets and the cabinet above the refrigerator. So easy to get out and put away my small appliances. Pretty much every inch of my cabinets are accessible and the contents visible. I'm using things I didn't remember I had prior to the remodel.

Appliances: get a month's subscription to online consumer reports. Their reviews are very helpful. I also got a Bosch dishwasher, btw, and it has been very good so far ... it was in the middle of the price range of high rated consumer report dishwashers. N.b. google for the evil error E24 that the dishwasher can give. It is important to be scrupulous about cleaning the filter or crud can go past the filter and block the drainage hose and other things. Also the repair person won't give you service under warranty unless you have closely followed all the installation instructions, including using the provided power cord (very short) and draping the drainage hose 28 inches high before it enters the garbage disposal drain. From this you may deduce that this happened to us.

I picked all my appliances by getting a mid price point high rated appliance from Consumer Reports reviews. I used their ratings of service to decide whether to buy an extra service contract. I got one for my LG gas range (love the range -- 5 burners, with a large central one that has a griddle accessory). LG apparently has a reputation for not giving good service, so I hope the contract from the merchant will protect me in the event that there is a failure. I don't actually trust modern electronically controlled appliances, as the electronics are basically computers, the spawn of the devil. (45 yrs low level software experience goes into that opinion.) I got a Bosch hood with removable washable grease trap/filter and fan and light. I got a Sharp drawer microwave which is awesome ... large enough to put a 9x12 casserole in, out of the way, good for vertically challenged users such as myself, but not cheap. (not as expensive as the suggested retail price here, though: http://www.sharpusa.com/ForHome/HomeAppliances/Microwaves/Models/KB6524PS.aspx) I chose the Samsung refrigerator with upper french doors and lower freezer drawer, without ice or ice water via the exterior because of reviews that identified these features as the big repair issues and source of dissatisfaction. It has an internal ice maker however.

Lighting: can LED lights, LED under-cabinet lights, track light pendulums over my large parsons table (works like an island and a way to feed 8 people in the kitchen), and my absolute favorite new feature -- a skylight. The window in my kitchen faces the wall of my neighbor's house and has never been a good source of natural light much less a view.

One more thing. If you use a non-licensed contractor, check who covers workmans' comp, liability insurance etc. It's likely you and your homeowner's policy, which can be an issue. A very expensive issue. and for Ghu's sake, whoever does your work, write a contract. The legal issues can outlast any remodel.

Consider putting in higher than standard counters in your kitchen. We had such in a custom built house -- the original owner, a woman, was reasonably but not greatly tall -- and even my 5'2" mother thought they were better and easier to use when preparing food. Standard is 36"; I think ours were 40".

Consider putting in higher than standard counters in your kitchen.

yes!

our last house had higher-than normal counters, which we thought were normal height. our current house has standard height counters, which feel very low now. even after two years.

The two dishwasher solution is really less, or not bachelor but entertainment driven. I love being able to wash prep dishes and have something to put things in while entertaining, it reduces end of evening work and U am a rinse and load as I go through life person. I hate dishes in the sink and everyone in the house is better at just loading as they go, when I remember to turn the magnet to load from clean.

This may not be an option, depending on heights, but I love my over-the-fridge microwave. It doesn't use up counter space or get heat damage from the range, and is much easier to see into and clean than lower ones.

How to save on remodeling costs: (1) develop detailed plan; (2) give to contractor [this assumes you won't be doing it yourself]; (3) leave town and take an extended trip until work is complete.

I'm with the person who said "have pull-out everything": spaces that can't be pulled out are bound to be inefficiently used. I wish we had more. And put hooks into the ceiling: hanging is a great way to store big pots.

I've been happy with Corian, plus a few slabs of stone with felt on the bottom to put hot things on (countertop or elsewhere).

I have always found it useful to have the dishwasher on the right side of the sink, and the silverware drawer on the right side of the dishwasher (because I am right handed). I also have short cups and some plates in drawers below the silverware because my family is short, and my daughter's boyfriend is a dwarf. Thus, even the low cabinets are sometimes too tall for us!

http://www.houzz.com/

That site has a gazillion pictures of kitchens, and a number of articles about things like countertop materials, flooring options, layout, etc. Although some of it is crazy opulent and extravagant, I found it helpful when visualizing my own kitchen remodel.

Bosch dishwasher is great: I'm so happy I put in undercabinet lighting: I replaced the old tile floor with a wood floor that was very thoroughly sealed, and I've had no problems with stains. (But "very thoroughly sealed" is probably key.) Instead of cabinets, some of my storage for pots and pans is now deep drawers, which I like. I end up shifting things around to get what I want sometimes, but no more than I would with a cabinet, and I don't have to do it while on my hands and knees. A pull-out spice rack is a nice useful thing, too.

I'm with you on not putting a microwave above the range. GE makes a model that will fit on a shelf. It depends on whether you want to give up cabinet space or counter space to it--also, how big and powerful you need your microwave to be.

Congratulations on the house!

I think the question on all this vacant housing stock is, why can't they rent it out? Ask what's preventing that, and you'll have the answer to the problem.

Because that would be the obvious thing to do, just rent out the vacant homes, perhaps with an option to buy after some period.

I suspect that the impediment is as much mental as anything else. Banks are accustomed to buying, selling, and owning. But property management -- especially of residential property? Frequently completely foreign to their mindsets.

It does occur to me to wonder whether, if they decided to shift something from "property we own until we can sell it" to "property that we own to rent", it would force them to revalue the property as well. Anybody know an expert is odd bits of accounting?

The downside to Bosch appliances is that they may gossip about you on the Internet. :)

Brett Bellmore gets most of it right, but there are a few other issues.

The short version is that banks aren't people. They don't make decisions based on financial motives they way everyone thinks they do. They are massive machines made from humans and computers, and they operate on a mixture of portfolio management and compliance.

Think of it as the difference between teaching one child to read, and developing procedures for educating, supplying, and supporting a thousand teachers who are teaching thirty thousand children to read. It's a different skillset and outlook- instead of doing what you have to do to teach that one child, you're trying to maximize results across the entire set. And in that analogy, a short sale is when one child, just one out of your thirty thousand, comes to you and asks for personal attention. Except it's worse because to complete the analogy you'd need a judge, a magistrate, an investor, a few attorney generals, and congress all sitting on your shoulder with different agendas, and a lot of sticks and few carrots.

Banks don't care about short sales; they care about following FNMA (or applicable investor) guidelines, regulations, and insurance guidelines if applicable. These guidelines may be the only reason they're bothering with the short sale at all. They may stand to gain literally zero dollars from any given short sale, as their involvement may be insured.

In order to process your short sale, the bank probably had to have the homeowner complete a financial review to satisfy the bank's (more likely their investor's) need to ensure that the attempt at exiting the property wasn't strategic. They probably had to investigate the property's value to ensure that the short sale offer was fair. They probably had to negotiate with the homeowner about the deficiency. They probably had to have the homeowner complete a proposal that the bank could package with all of this and submit to their investor or insurer for review. While they were doing this, there was probably a court setting its own deadlines without knowing or caring about the investor deadlines. And each of those things had independent timelines that had to be managed, with the possibility of any given effort falling through in the entirety because one timeline was missed, possibly by someone other than the bank.

And they had to do all of that in an environment where a significant amount of short sale efforts are strategic efforts at manipulating the foreclosure process, and not serious efforts at sale.

TLDR, they have little reason to care about the short sale, and a lot of reason to care about compliance rules that you can't see from your perspective. This is a recipe for a one sided process.

They won't rent the property because that requires hiring people to manage the rental, and it requires accepting significant liability for the state of the property. You can't just declare a property to be a rental and start collecting monthly checks

Plus that's irrelevant to the short sale question because short sale is pre completion of foreclosure.

John Beatty: "and make sure there is enough soft lighting for middle-of-the-night forays or your eyes will never forgive you. "

Since you're remodeling, Doctor Science, put nightlights/dimmers in everywhere. If you are like me, once your eyes are hit by even moderate light in the middle of the night, you'll be up for the rest of the night. Having juuuuuust enough light to function (if you know what I mean) will save you many sleepless nights.

(if you know what I mean)

i believe i do. and that's why i'm considering these for our new house.

No need to get it from Kohler.

Doctor S,

One thing to consider about short sales is the fact that the owner (bank) and/or note holder has to agree to take a haircut on the outstanding mortgage. So you have two problems:
1. Taking the hit would mean they would have to mark the loss on their books as opposed to carrying it as an asset at full value that will be paid "some day".
2. If the note was repackaged as a mortgage backed security, there is some question as to who the actual owner(s) are.

There are other issues as well (for Brett, et. al):
1. Banks do not want to be landlords. Being a landlord takes real effort and costs real money. Carrying a bad loan on the books at full value may not be as painful.
2. Loan servicers have incentive to keep carrying the loan so they can continue to charge fees.

They drag their feet with their replies and demand near instant responses from you because they basically want you to go away.

Hope you enjoy the house!

Well, they are renting out houses, but besides the ordinary hassles, with all the houses now you're often dealing with people ripping out wiring and pipe to sell as scrap. Does one hell of a lot of damage to a house.

One other suggestion for people who are making a custom shower rather than installing a standard unit. Two shower heads opposite each other. It's terrific. No cold back or front as you rinse one side. You could even have three: front, back and overhead.

Another great thing a friend did back when was to install speakers in there. Nowadays you could probably get waterproof speakers with bluetooth, but back then he did them high overhead and used cheap car speakers. They're rugged, and the fact that they don't have fantastic sound doesn't matter because the sound of water means you're not going to hear subtleties. Only problem is you'll use more hot water since you won't want to get out. Hey, just install an on-demand hot water heater.

Kraus sinks are more expensive than a dishwasher"

Every single home or apartment I've ever moved into featured a miserably performing and very loud GE dishwasher whose purchase price cannot have exceeded $400, and whose level of performance was really on par with a $250 machine.

Oh, showers! We did the two head thing, with one head a handheld on a bar. That turned out to be the only one we use regularly, and every shower we remodeled from then one had at least one handheld, and only the handheld if we couldn't do 2 heads. Being able to raise/lower the height, wash feet/children/pets, fill plant watering pots is just wonderful.

My mom had her kitchen redone last year after 46 years. The first couple of times I went to visit I walked in the door from the garage carrying my travel cooler and tried to set it down on a counter top that didn't exist anymore. You can't go home again.

Doctor S,

All the plumbers I know have a recirculation pump on the hot water. When you have this device, you don't have to wait, and wait, and wait for your shower or bath water to get warm.

Just a thought.

I'm more inclined to put an on demand water heater in the closet opposite the shower; It's the furthest use of water from the hot water heater, and having a slab floor, where would I route the return line? Through the attic? It might freeze if global warming gets any worse. ;)

bobbyp:

"Banks do not want to be landlords. Being a landlord takes real effort and costs real money. Carrying a bad loan on the books at full value may not be as painful."

It's worse, since in some states the bank holding the mortgage doesn't *own* the property; they 'merely' have certain rights. They can evict people, keep the house empty, not maintain it, and let it rot. All the while keeping it on their books at full value.

I'll echo the call to look at Houzz. Great ideas there you can collect in a portfolio for later viewing.

As for the banks, it's pretty much been all said and I'll just share something anecdotal. I worked construction through high school and college summers. We did several bank remodels. The banks were quick to flip distressed properties (this was the 80's). I don't remember my area necessarily being an incredible up market, but it wasn't a down market. I remember one house that was pink with black trim (I kid you not). We basically gutted it, re-roofed and repainted. The neighbors came by daily shouting encouragement and thanking us. I simply contrast that to my experience today. I have personally experienced Dr. Science's perplexity at the seemingly non-market response of banks. At first, I wondered if it is simply due to not wanting a sales price to affect other distressed properties on the market. But over time I came to see there is no rational explanation other than a) complete and utter incompetence; or b) government regulation. Oh, wait. Those are the same thing, right?

No, those are not the same thing.

Some argue that government regulation is a proper subset of incompetence. But nobody (that I know of) argues that the only case of complete and utter incompetence is government regulation. Way too many private sector examples out there.

While the reluctance of mortgage companies to actually sell their stock of rotting houses has a large component of government incompetence, I wouldn't neglect a particular form of private sector incompetence: The cancer-like growth of "professional" management. You can't blame that on government.

But over time I came to see there is no rational explanation other than a) complete and utter incompetence; or b) government regulation.

The banks even lost Milton Friedman in the end, but bc is hanging in there.

No worries bc, you're not alone.

But over time I came to see there is no rational explanation...

So you are arguing that private actors motivated solely by greed are irrational?

I guess, if we want free market capitalism to survive, we should put them out of their misery.

Having had the unparalleled (and fortunately usually unrepeatable) experience of building a kitchen (whole house, really) from scratch,
my avice would be not so much to thin about what stuff you need/want: but how you use/work in/live in the kitchen, and plan it out accordingly. I can second a lot of the recc's here, though:

a) As resilient a hardwood floor as you can find/afford (we were supposed to use white ash, but due to a slipup, got bleached oak instead).
b) Bosch dishwasher: yes!
c) A big (double?) sink: two if you have the space/budget/plumbing: even a small "vegetable sink" can be useful.
d) A really good, well-vented range hood.
e) check out appliances and fixtures through Consumer Reports (worth the subscription).

Oh, and if you do get under-cabinet counter lights (LED): don't make the mistake we did: think on, and plot out, where they will show when you are seated in the kitchen: ours lighted the counter just fine when we were standing up: but shone right in our eyes when we sat at the kitchen table.

No input re countertops, unfortunately: we were lucky enough to find some fabulous Hawaiian granite at a stoneyard in Albany: dark green with black veins and red flecks: we had no need to look any further...

Apparently I forgot the sarcasm tags <> in my last comment. I need to brush up on my html.

yikes, looks like i totally misread you.

it's hard to know what's a joke anymore... :(

sorry, bc!

So lots of you have recced a Bosch dishwasher, and I must ask: where do you put your bowls?!?

Our landlord goes through a lot of appliances: he buys them used, they don't work for long, out they go. We're about to get our fourth in five years.

One of them along the way was a Bosch. Yes, it was *really* quiet -- but it was a pain to load because we couldn't figure out where to put our bowls. All the images in the manual about how to load the DW assume you have a lot of plates and few bowls, and especially not the hodge-podge of breakfast, mixing, and rice bowls our household uses.

I do admit that the Bosch flatware caddies were so good we're still using them, going on two dishwashers later.

Actually, russell, I took you putting Milton Friedman in the same sentence as my initials as a compliment regardless of sentence content. I'm kind of irrational that way. No worries.

;)

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